Emmy 2013, The Good and the Bad
Emmy voters got some things right and other things wrong
by Michael Sadowski
Life is different for Emmy voters these days. Voters have to keep up with the networks, basic cable, premium channels like HBO and Showtime, and also learn to stream TV channels like Netflix and YouTube. Plus every year new streaming services and channels are added to a television landscape offering more original programming, all competing to earn the title “Most Daring Show Ever.” Emmy voting has become a more difficult job than anyone ever imagined it would or even should be. But until the rules change for show eligibility, voters are going to be second, third and fourth guessed over whom they nominate for TV’s most prestigious awards.
They’re going to get some things right. Others, they’re going to get wrong.
WHAT THEY GOT RIGHT
A single writing nomination for The Office, and nothing else
The show hasn’t been as funny as it was five years ago, when it was the best-written comedy on television and was getting deserved Emmy nominations hand over fist. But as the show went downhill, the Emmy nominations kept coming in when other deserving shows were scratching their heads as to why they were getting shut out. That ended last year—the season after Steve Carell departed—but just because the show isn’t as funny as it used to be, it showed it can still reach back into its glory days and pull off some remarkable TV magic. That magic for “The Office” happened this year during the very satisfying series finale. The Emmys decided not to go overboard in heaping wild praise on the show’s final season, instead just giving creator Greg Daniels a well-deserved nomination for penning the finale. Even with the show’s impressive Emmy history, the lone nomination seems like the correct course of action.
The recognition of House of Cards on Netflix
The biggest wild card going into the nomination announcement was how the awards would treat Kevin Spacey’s Netflix drama. The show was deserving, everyone knew that. But its inclusion, or lack there of, would be seen as a judgment on whether Netflix’s original programming would be considered in the same way broadcast network shows are, even if the show has never, and may not ever, see broadcast TV. The judgment was pretty clear—original Netflix shows belong at the Emmys. House of Cards nailed down three nominations, including outstanding drama. Adding to the Netflix haul, Jason Bateman scored an outstanding lead comedy actor nod for the revival of Arrested Development. Emmy voters were perfectly within the scope of their voting duties to include Netflix original content just as they have been including HBO and Showtime shows for the last two decades.
The justified lack of respect for network television
Supporters of the Big Four normally gripe about how the game is rigged, that their shows can’t compete with off-network shows because of the looser moral standards applied to basic and premium cable shows. But Jeff Daniels scored a worthy best actor nomination on a show that easily could have been adjusted for network broadcast. Bateman got his nomination for a TV show Fox decided—wrongfully—had run its course seven years ago. The rookie success stories in network TV this year like The Following didn’t make a dent, even though Kevin Bacon’s starring role of Ryan Hardy seemed like a sure Emmy nomination on paper. Kerry Washington nabbed a surprise nomination for Scandal on ABC, but Zooey Deschanel and Max Greenfield lost their New Girl nominations, and the show was completely shut out despite its critical praise. Only one major nomination—Connie Britton for best actress in Nashville, who clearly wasn’t better than cancer patient Monica Potter in NBC’s Parenthood—went to a first-year network show. The Emmys know what viewers already know, that most quality television resides off-network.
WHAT THEY GOT WRONG
Basic cable oops
FX received 17 nominations for American Horror Story, but everyone knows the show circumvented the rules by submitting it under the miniseries/movie category. So it’s hard to take those seriously. Then there is the continued, questionable Emmy support of Louie which is a talk for another day. But FX took some major hits on its other shows. Sons of Anarchy gets wrongfully shut out every year, but this year Justified was snubbed after picking up two big statues last year and critically loved The Americans could only manage a guest-actress nomination for Margo Martindale. The network’s comedy slate didn’t make the cut either. The news was worse for USA, whose Monk and Burn Notice heydays seem to be over. It could only manage a couple nominations American Horror Story-style in the miniseries category for Political Animals, which now lies in the TV graveyard. Comedy Central also got shut out and TNT’s Southland, its only show that really had a chance, couldn’t eek out a nomination either.
The continued support of 30 Rock
The show isn’t any different from The Office in how far it had fallen over the last three years, but the difference is Emmy voters stopped nominating The Office in the biggest categories. They curiously never stopped praising 30 Rock even though it seemed to be on auto-pilot since 2010. As good as 30 Rock was, it’s almost a relief for other deserving Emmy hopefuls to have it off the air after the final season finished in January.
The Good Wife snubs
The only thing that’s kept TV’s best network drama on the air over the last two years has been its critical praise and the Emmy nominations it gains so that CBS can say at least one of its dramas is an Emmy darling. This year, even though the show had one of its best creative seasons, it only snapped up just one major nomination, a deserved supporting actress nod for Christine Baranski. Even with two of 2012’s best actress nominees departing the category because their shows were canceled, 2011 winner and 2012 nominee Julianna Margulies couldn’t hold on to her nomination, nor could 2010 supporting actress winner Archie Panjabi. That’s not a good sign for the veteran show that already had the worst ratings for any returning CBS drama and is charged with anchoring CBS’s lineup on the ultra-competitive Sunday night schedule. This could be the drama’s make-or-break year if the network thinks it won’t be getting nominations anymore.
In the same way we can’t be that angry at the NCAA Selection Committee for getting 67 teams right and flubbing one pick, we can’t begrudge the Emmy voters for only getting it 90 percent right. It’s one thing if they blatantly leave Mad Men out of every category, but when it’s a show with obvious flaws that is getting snubbed, well, maybe they’re doing a decent enough job after all.
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